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Mentors Make A Difference: How organizations are still helping during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the month of September, 13WMAZ is highlighting three central Georgia organizations that are still helping kids get mentors through the COVID-19 pandemic.

MACON, Ga. — During the month of September, 13WMAZ is highlighting three central Georgia organizations that are still helping kids get mentors despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the heart of Georgia.

"Our services kept going, but we have had a tremendous request for mentors," President and CEO Betsy Fitzgerald said.

The President of Big Brothers, Big Sisters Heart of Georgia says since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for mentors has continued to grow.

"We are estimating at probably around 250 or more kids are just waiting right now to get matched," Fitzgerald said.

Because of COVID-19, the way 'Bigs' and 'Littles' interact is different. But Fitzgerald says communication is still important.

"We have kids that are using things like Zoom, Facetime, etcetera, but we also have kids who don't have connectivity at home. Some of our kids are learning what snail mail is, so they are writing old fashioned letters," Fitzgerald said.

So, how can you sign up to become a mentor?

"The whole entire process has moved to an online base, where the interview process to your training is done online," Fitzgerald said.

If you sign up, you can see how mentors make a difference in central Georgia.

"Our youth have so much potential and a mentor can empower and invigorate that potential and bring them to the next level," Fitzgerald said.

13WMAZ also met with The Mentor's Project of Bibb County virtually. They are making sure kids in Macon-Bibb County have healthy meals, while still stressing the need for mentors.

"We realized there were a lot of children and families at home who did not have something to eat, so we just shifted operations to my garage," June O'Neal said.

The Mentor's Project of Bibb County usually helps students with clothes, school supplies, and even food. Over the summer of 2020, they took things a step further.

"We were feeding about 500 students a week, we had farm-to-family vegetables to give out, and we've given out shelf table food like peanut butter and jelly, fresh bread, and snacks," O'Neal said.

O'Neal says they still have a great need for mentors. 

"As children grow virtually, they still need encouraging adults in their lives," O'Neal said. 

Right now, O'Neal says they need about 150 mentors to help.

"So if you want to volunteer to be a mentor, please call us at 478-765-8624," O'Neal said.

She says mentors are needed more than ever to help kids realize their full potential.

"I think that every child throughout the world can use a personal cheerleader in their life, in these unprecedented times, when everything is topsy-turvy and turned upside down, it is very important for children to know that they have somebody in their corner," O'Neal said. 

The last organization we checked in with is The Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia.

President and CEO Phillip Bryant with the Boys and Girls Club in central Georgia says when COVID-19 hit, clubs halted operation.

"Which impacted hundreds of young people that we serve every single day. Through our 7 boy club facilities, we were serving close to 600 young people per day," Bryant said. 

While the clubs were closed, Bryant says his team worked on ways to continue serving kids.

"One of the things we did, we implemented a virtual club programming for all of our club sites," Bryant said.

Kids and families participated in programs like 'Smart Girls' and 'Passport to Manhood.'

Looking ahead, Bryant says they are slowly getting back to normal.

"We are starting to re-open some of our club facilities on a limited basis. We have a limited number of kids that we are serving at our clubs due to COVID. We try to maintain social distancing," Bryant said.

Some clubs are re-opening to offer kids a safe place to learn virtually during the day, giving them some one-on-one time with  mentors.

Bryant says they are following the CDC's guidelines to keep everyone safe and to show why mentors truly make a difference.

"If kids do not have access to caring adult mentors that will guide them in the right direction, I like to say there are some people on the street that will guide them in the wrong direction," Bryant said.